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"Python sebae natalensis"

Python sebae natalensis. (2009, December 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:07, January 5, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Python_sebae_natalensis&oldid=333428862

Python sebae natalensis is a non-venomous subspecies[4] of the African rock python found in sub-Saharan Africa.[4] It is one of the largest snakes in the world, approaching 20 feet in length. Unlike most snakes, the female Natal rock python actively protects her young for up to two weeks after they have hatched from their eggs. This may be the "Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake" of Kipling's Just So Stories.

First described by Andrew Smith in 1833, its generic name Python is a Greek word Πύθων referring to the enormous serpent at Delphi slain by Apollo in Greek mythology. Its specific name sebae is a Latinized form of Dutch zoologist, Albertus Seba's last name. Its subspecific name, natalensis, is a Latinization of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa where it was first described.[2]

With adults reaching lengths of over 6 m (20 ft), this is one of the world's largest snakes[2]. The typical adult length is 4.8 m (16 ft) and rumors of specimens over 20 feet are generally considered reliable, but a larger specimen has never been confirmed[5].

The color pattern is typically brown, with olive and tan irregular blotching, fading to a dull white on the underside.[6]

Distribution is within sub-Saharan Africa and it is found in southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa (northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo).[6] It is present in a wide variety of habitats including savanna and lowland forest.[6] Feral specimens have been identified in North America in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1901 and the Florida Everglades in the 1990s.[5]

Reproduction occurs in the spring with females laying as many as 100 eggs at a time.[2] They guard their eggs aggressively while they incubate for 2-3 months.[2] Hatchlings are between 45-60 cm (18-24 inches) in length and appear virtually identical to adults, except with more contrasting colors. It was recently discovered in a manner unusual for snakes in general and pythons in particular that the female guards the hatchlings for up to two weeks after they hatch from their eggs in order to protect them from predators.[7]

The Natal python is an ambush predator and an opportunistic feeder. It will consume almost any animal it comes across and can overpower by constriction. Young pythons primarily eat small rodents, which makes the juvenile snakes popular with local farmers for reducing species harmful to crops, like the cane rat. However, adults are capable of taking very large prey, including young crocodiles, goats, gazelles, warthogs and even humans, making them very dangerous.[2]

Although this species can easily kill an adult human, attacks are rare. The last known case in which a person was eaten occurred in South Africa in 2002, the victim being a 10-year-old child.[8]

Python sebae natalensis. (2009, December 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:07, January 5, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Python_sebae_natalensis&oldid=333428862

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